Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU continue to hang on a knife-edge with just eight days to go until the official end of the Brexit transition period. Brexit negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier have been working around the clock to try and bridge gaps over fisheries and the so-called level playing field on trade.
The future relationship between the UK and Europe has been brought into sharp focus this week after France blocked the transportation of goods from the UK, amid fears over a new mutant strain of coronavirus.
Lorries were barred from travelling from Sunday evening until a deal was eventually reached on Tuesday evening.
Up to 10,000 HGVs are estimated to have been affected by the decision from Mr Macron, with thousands of drivers forced to sleep in their cabs for the past three nights.
Officials in Paris agreed to open the border on Wednesday morning, but only to drivers who had reported a negative coronavirus test in the past 72 hours.
As a result, large queues remain at the border and on the M20 in Kent, with leading retailers and industry experts warning about potential food shortages.
The disruption at the border has accelerated the use of no deal Brexit planning with contingency measures, such as the deployment of the removable barrier on the M20 and opening Manston Airport to hold vehicles.
The chaos comes as Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen continue to hold behind the scenes calls to try to thrash out an 11th-hour deal.
According to insiders close the negotiations a deal could be edging closer within the next 24 to 48 hours.
A UK source said: “There is a deal on the table now and both sides want to be home for Christmas Eve.”
But, others fear the decision by the French President to shut the border to the UK at such a pivotal moment could have derailed months of hard work.
A senior UK source told The Sun: “There’s a real chance relations with the French sink this whole thing.
“If there was ever a time to tell them to get stuffed, this might be it.”
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He added: “You would be naive to think the discussions about fishing quotas were not in the back of Macron’s mind when he made the decision on Sunday night to shut the border.
“I think that decision was irresponsible. Not only has it created a significant welfare problem for drivers – it cuts off southern Ireland. A decision he made for his own political advantage.”
Leading Brexiteers also condemned the decision by Mr Macron, including Nigel Farage, who insisted the time has come to “walk away” from Brexit talks.
Reacting the news, earlier this week, the Brexit Party leader said: “We are dealing with thugs and bullies who want to make us sign a bad deal.
“Time to walk away, to hell with the EU.”
Writing on Twitter, former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney added: “Tailbacks for miles. Sterling plummets. Not caused by Brexit, but Macron. That beloved Prince of the Europhiles.
“Yet still the Remainers seem happy. ‘Have a taste of #BrexitIsland they trill’.
“They want Britain to fail solely so they can say ‘I told you so’. What a sad mindset.”
Brexit talks between Lord Frost and Mr Barnier continue today, while the Prime Minister and Ms von der Leyen are expected to hold another call later this evening.